The Magic Show #85 – From Charlotte, with Love

Watch Evan Erwin every Friday... on StarCityGames.com!Friday, February 29th – Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to see some highlights from my weekend in Charlotte, including some unseen footage from players there, talk about the statistical power of the StarCityGames deck database, review upcoming Banned and Restricted list revisions due on March 1st, enlighten you with some Jon Finkel facts and we reach a new Magic Show milestone. Let’s go!

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to see some highlights from my weekend in Charlotte, including some unseen footage from players there, talk about the statistical power of the StarCityGames deck database, review upcoming Banned and Restricted list revisions due on March 1st, enlighten you with some Jon Finkel facts and we reach a new Magic Show milestone. Let’s go!

From Charlotte, with Love

This past weekend, as you may have heard, I was in Charlotte, North Carolina manning the editing station for some-odd 16 hours while producing over an hour and a half of footage. This included my correct picks of Chris Woltereck and Kenny Mayer making the Top 8, along with picking premium columnist Benjamin Peebles-Mundy in Round 4 as he rode his winning streak into the same final eight slots.

How did it go? I would call this a definite success. It’s not a rousing success, as this was the first time I had pulled off live updates, and as the Magic Show is wont to do, it generally has a few mistakes along the way. My rule regarding trying new things is this: I’m happy to make mistakes as long as I don’t make them twice. So for all of those times when the sound may have been a bit off-sync, or the interviews that were lost due to a dead mic or a lost piece of tape, I chalk those up to experience and a big helping of What Not To Do Next Time.

To inject some fun in this recap, let’s take a look at the final segment of Round 9, where players tell us what the most powerful card in Standard is.


In this next piece, recorded at the morning of the tournament, I asked players what they were playing. The results may both surprise and not surprise you.


The Statistical Power of StarCityGames.com

In the wide world of competitive Magic, there’s a lot to take in. Archetypes, builds, sideboards, plans, Jedi mind tricks, and more. And, to beat it all, Magic is essentially a game of math. So why don’t we just throw some math at the current Extended environment and see what sticks?

Okay, everybody get your calculators…

Nah, that’s far too much work. How about we just let the powerful statistical analysis of the deck database do the work for us? You’d be surprised how much information is not only available but just waiting for you to take advantage of.

The first thing you’ll want to check out is the tiny link under the title of a deck hosted in the StarCityGames.com deck database. Let’s take this Extended deck for example. You see the link that says “Click here to see a summary of all decks from Pro Tour: Hollywood.” Using this link you find out some very useful and interesting information.

The first thing you see is a breakdown of which decks made Top 8 by number of showings. As you can see, Dredge currently sits on the top of the heap, followed by Doran the Explorer and Red Deck Wins, respectively. This allows you to see not only how many copies of the deck made Top 8, but the number of times it qualified the player using it, and the number of showings by week. That alone is powerful stuff.

But it doesn’t end there. Check out the “Archetype Analysis” link. Let’s take Doran the Explorer as an example. You can see that of the 29 decks that made Top 8 so far this season, all of them played these eight cards: Birds of Paradise; Cabal Therapy; Dark Confidant; Doran, the Siege Tower; Godless Shrine; Overgrown Tomb; Tarmogoyf; and Windswept Heath.

“Well, duh,” you say. But to the person who isn’t familiar with the format or what deck plays which cards, this is very insightful info. This analysis allows you to really pick and choose how you wish to define your archetype. Do most play Eternal Witness? Yes. But a full ten percent of those who made Top 8 did not. Did some play Duress? By contrast, only 10% of them did.

You can continue this line of thinking, but there’s even more to be uncovered. After a certain amount of finishes with one archetype, you can actually construct a statistically average deck. This is somewhat like buying the store-brand soapbox racer rather than the cool but somewhat malformed one you constructed on your own. It will race much the same, but there’s something really bland about it.

Looking at the statistical version of Doran the Explorer, this is a respectable build by any stretch. It won’t get you questioned or accused of running bad cards. These are the cards that continue to win, here’s the build that it generically amalgams to.

With that said, you can use this tool to create a ‘base’ build, and then use your knowledge, foresight, or rumblings from the tournament floor that morning to adjust it according to your local metagame. Expect a lot of aggro? Up that Smother count. Looking to win the mirror? Think about Deathmark or something tech-y like Sword of Light and Shadow.

But we’re not done yet.

At the bottom of the list of decks you’ll find a color breakdown. Did you know that a full quarter of all cards that made Top 8 this season were Red? Or that the least played color was White? Well, okay, that’s not a secret, White has been sucking bad for years now.

That said, I believe these tools are a boon to the average tournament player. The last thing I’ll show you is the link at the top of these decklistings, titled “Click here to see a complete breakdown of all cards played in PT: Hollywood PTQ Season.” I bet you can guess who’s on top. His name starts with T and ends with ‘armogoyf’. Yes, that $50 monster is on top, with over half of all Top 8 decks running copies. Which leads us to our next segment…

The Upcoming Ban Hammer

So this week Bennie Smith echoed a rumor he heard regarding some big changes coming to the Banned and Restricted lists that are updated four times a year, and this time it’s that something is going to be removed from Extended.

Allow me to begin by saying that Wizards has put into place so many tools to foil so many strategies that it is highly unlikely that any changes will actually take place. For example, combo decks have an extremely tough time with Extirpate, and Dredge just gets wrecked b Offalsnout. Next Level Blue has a hard time fighting Krosan Grip unless they remember to stack a three casting cost card on top, and any other graveyard tricks are generally worried about Tormod’s Crypt and its ability to ruin all sorts of good cards and strategies.

So what could possibly be banned? My guess is Counterbalance. The other option for me is Sensei’s Divining Top, but such a ‘harmless’ artifact doesn’t seem quite powerful enough to warrant the hammer. Counterbalance, however, creates incredibly unfun gamestates and is incredibly unfun to play against. With the format virtually defined by ones, twos, and threes, the deck that came from the Innovator and whose hybrid version transformed it into the Grand Prix: Vancouver winner could be on the chopping block.

But I wouldn’t bet on it. Part of the philosophy of a Tier 2 metagame is putting in ‘foils,’ as in the antithesis and not shiny cards, of the most powerful cards and archetypes. In this way we can get cards like Reveillark or Kinsbaile Borderguard, recognize their power, but also get access to powerful cards that foil their strategies easily and, many times, cheaply.

For those holding their breath, I would suggest not wasting your time.

Jon Finkel Facts

For those who know that Chuck Norris killed a cloud comes Jon Finkel Facts. In this fun segment we go over a cool Magic meme running around touting the unknown prowess of the game’s most famous player.

I’ll share a few this week, and if you want me to feature more, be sure to let me know in the feedback. So, with that said:

Jon Finkel doesn’t draw. He tutors. Every turn.
Jon Finkel never blocks; he just attacks in the opposite direction.
Jon Finkel wins clashes with basic lands.
Jon Finkel doesn’t get mana screw. Mana is afraid to screw with Jon Finkel.

So that’s this week’s batch. I hope you enjoyed them, and if you dug this segment, we’ll throw out some more next week.

A Magic Show Milestone

You know guys and gals, I’ve been at this video thing for awhile now. Coming up on a year and a half. And through that time, as of this writing, I’ve produced 147 separate videos. That’s a lot of work, with hours and hours and hours of content. And each week thousands of Magic players just like yourself tune in to find out the latest in the world of Magic.

But thanks to the Charlotte updates, the Magic Show has reached an important milestone: All of my videos, combined, have now been viewed over one million times. Yes, that’s one million viewings. That’s a pretty incredible number if you ask me, and I’m incredibly humbled and proud of such an accomplishment.

So with that I’d like to say thank you for watching, and until the next million viewings pass us by, this is Evan Erwin tapping the cards so you don’t have to.

Evan “misterorange” Erwin
dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written imaging Extended without Counterbalance. Ah, dreams.

Music Credits:
Title — “The Stone” by Ashes Divide
Bumpers — “27 Jennifers” by Mike Doughty